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Do you play with your kids?

Categories: Bad Parenting, Guilt Inducers


There’s only one game I remember.  We called it “Mixer.”  We’d run in circles on our parents’ bed while our mom turned on and off the vacuum cleaner, making the sound that we thought was similar to the Kitchenaid stand mixer that we were pretending to be inside as we ran in circles. Thinking back, this was incredibly forbidden. Not only were we in our parents’ room, but we were on the bed. Standing. Running!  The impeccably-made bed with the blue-green bedspread.  With our bare feet.

That was the only game.

My kids have had it different.  Until I started working from home and my Macbook became permanently attached to my lap, we played.  Every day.  Different games.  Many games.  I prided myself on being a different parent than mine, who were strict and unemotional.  A better parent.

But is it really better?

As kids, we were pretty self-sufficient.  Summer days stretched into evenings, and we’d still be outside riding our bikes down by the arroyo or climbing Boot Hill or playing tag with the neighborhood kids, all of whom would be out every summer evening after dinner.  We’d run into the house, flip-flops flapping, to gulp cold Dixie cups of orange Kool-Aid or refill our water pistols or grab our skate keys.  We didn’t play with our parents because they didn’t play with us.  It wasn’t expected.

I’m of two minds about this.

One. Yes, I sort of still feel hurt that my parents weren’t fun.  Can’t help that.  It happened.  Yes, I wanted to be better than that, different.

Two. I love that we were on our own and it was okay.  Have times really changed?  There have been days when two of my kids, 6 and 10 at the time, were outside in the yard or just beyond the yard in the prairie beyond or across the street at the park, all day.  Sure, I glanced out the window and listened for their voices.  All day long.  You do too.

Three. (Okay, I’m of more than two minds.)  Are kids now losing their ability for self-sufficiency?  They expect us to entertain them, or the XBox or the Wii or the Nintendo DS or Noggin to entertain them.  We let this happen.  And we feel guilty if we don’t spend enough “quality” time with our kids.  Who did this to us?  We did.  For me, it’s a rebound thing.  I felt cheated, so BOOM my kids are going to have it different.  Sound familiar?

Four.  Kids are fun.  Truth be told, most of the time it’s really fun to play with my kids.  I’d rather dance around the livingroom than cook dinner or work.  Wouldn’t you?  We don’t carry the same kid-parent barriers that we had as kids, most of us.  The lines are drawn differently now.  I would have considered sleeping in my parents’ bed completely inappropriate (mainly from their discomfort), but most of my kids co-slept with me (not all at once. You have to draw the line somewhere, and that line’s different for everyone, but … no).  On the other hand, I’d rather stab my eye repeatedly with a fork than play another game of Candyland.

How does play work in your house?  Do you play with your kids?  Is there a line drawn somewhere, and if so, where?

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4 comments so far...

  • We play, but not nearly as much as I’d like. Seems like there’s always something that needs to get done, and my daughter is right there saying “Mommy, lets play Barbies. Mommy lets play in my room” I feel bad, telling her no, but dinner has got to get done, dishes, laundry, etc. I never really thought about it before, but I guess my Mom didn’t play with me or my sister.
    I do worry that my husband and I don’t spend enough quality time with her. That we don’t interact with her enough and engage in family activities. On the other hand, I’m glad that at 4 yrs old, she can realize that Mommy is busy and will go to her room and find something to do. And be perfectly content doing so.

    Erica  |  February 11th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

  • Not so much. They are 2 and have a blast playing with each other. I encourage mostly from a distance, or introduce a new toy/game until the kids understand what it’s for. Once in a while I’ll inject a new idea for them to build on. I believe their imagination will grow more if I don’t get too involved. Of course, if they invite me to taste their latest play-kitchen concoction, I won’t say no.

    My role is more to read to them, take them out to experience new things, do the grown-up stuff for them to watch, and make sure they don’t endanger themselves or each other.

    SKL  |  February 11th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

  • I don’t particularly remember my mother playing with me. I played by myself, mostly played pretend and read. I was ALWAYS reading as a child. Some things don’t change. Sometimes I played with my younger sister, though we didn’t get along very well, so we often chose to play alone.

    I force myself to play with my two-year-old because I feel that it’s expected of me and it’s “what a good parent does.” But I usually find it quite boring. And I don’t do it as often as I suppose I “should.” A lot of the time, I let her amuse herself, which she is very good at. So I guess I have multiple personality disorder about this issue as well. Yes, I play with my daughter sometimes, but I also think it is VERY important that she be independent and able to entertain herself without the aid of electronics. Luckily, she also loves to “read” and is able to occupy herself for 30-45 minutes at a time. Which is amazing for a 2-year old!

    Robyn  |  February 12th, 2009 at 10:33 am

  • one of the best days was when younger sister was old enough to really PLAY with older sister! finally. they are 2 years apart and play brilliantly together. this is good! my husband and I often TRY to join the only to be told no thank you! I love that. they do sometimes want family games, we do that a few times a week I guess, more structured. otherwise play time is free wheelin fancy free for them and they are better for it!

    I have many friends with one child though, and I think the dynamics are different for them, they do play a lot more (or suffer the whine).

    gretchen  |  February 12th, 2009 at 12:37 pm